Disparity Study Leaves Augusta Commission Divided - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Disparity Study Leaves Augusta Commission Divided

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Augusta, GA -

The CSRA Business League says it's time to talk about a disparity study and how level the playing field when it comes to who Augusta-Richmond County does business with.

"I am frustrated, we can't have a decent conversation about the disparity study and the disparities in Richmond County government," says Ellis Albright, CEO of the CSRA Business League.

The disparity study released in 2009 found there was compelling of evidence of discrimination in city business, but when asked to discuss a plan to address it in the last several weeks, the Augusta Commission has been divided on racial lines.

The massive disparity study, which is 360 pages, found that 35% percent of the businesses in the Augusta area were women- or minority-owned, yet these businesses were getting only 7% percent of city contracts. The disparity study called that discrimination and some on the Commission say that's a problem that needs to be addressed.

"It's a shame we can't even talk, we can't even have a conversation about what we might need to do. Moving forward, I think that pretty much tells you the state of affairs...where we are right now," says Commissioner Alvin Mason.

But, to move forward with a minority business program would require another costly disparity study, and the CSRA Business League is asking the city for $175,000 to help develop a program.

"A half a million for the study, for what we're going to do and everything. What are we going to do when we look back at the reserves and the fund is empty, then what we are going to do?" says Commissioner Grady Smith.

"Some Commissioners want to move forward, but we have the same Commissioners, time after time, voting against the proposal," says Albright.

"Is this a racial?" we asked. "They'll have to answer that. One can certainly surmise that comes into play," says Mason.

But, all Augusta and Commissioners can do now is talk about a minority set aside program. In 2011, the federal court enjoined the city from awarding contracts based on a bidder's minority status. The court also says Augusta is free to gather evidence through another disparity study to justify a future program.

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